It’s finally finished. It feels like I’ve been hearing about the Kizumonogatari movie since I finished watching the first TV anime, Bakemonogatari. In my reviews of pastentries in its tangled timeline I was a lot more glowing in my praise than I remembered; but somewhere along the way I didn’t so much lose patience so much as lose interest in continuing with the franchise. I think it was somewhere around the first tranche of episodes for Owarimonogatari.
Kizumonogatari (Scarstory or Woundstory depending on your translator) however is narratively the first story in the now 23 light novel saga so its adaptation holds the potential for newcomers to be introduced to the franchise without its eight years of baggage. A trilogy of movies then, each around an hour long, telling the story of eternal straight man Koyomi Araragi’s first meeting with the mercurial vampire Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade, class president Tsubasa Hanekawa and oddity specialist Meme Oshino.
The elephant in the room whenever I’m talking about a series like Monogatari, ef, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai or, in this case, Mekakucity Actors, is the director Akiyuki Shinbo. I have tried and usually failed to address that elephant when reviewing his shows yet each one he does without sharing directing duties is indelibly stamped with his unique vision. My issue being that despite his obvious talent and corruscating view of the world, it takes an enormously strong story to match that style. Mekakucity Actors does not have that.
an obnoxious mash-up of a vocaloid and the Microsoft Word paperclip
Madoka did which is why it’s difficult not to maintain the niggling suspicion that it was so successful despite the director rather than because of him. He is consistently strong when it comes to aesthetics, with allegories and metaphors bubbling contentedly beneath the surface but with Mekaku it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. There’s the fascination with time and cogs with crooked clock towers and giant hourglasses littering the landscape and drenched in neon like a futuristic Salvador Dali. Sunsets and stained glass windows frame moody looking teenagers holding books and cocking their heads with signature aloofness.
A review of the Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko anime series
Apathy seems to have been a trendy topic for anime the past few years, culminating in 2012 with Hyouka’s Oreki whose, if you’ll forgive the pun, entire driving force was to pursue a languorous existence, free of exertion. Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (Electrowave Girl and Youthful Boy / Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl) may have preceded Hyouka by a year but nevertheless rails against this trend of laziness, ironically doing so in the most languid and nonchalant way possible.
It doesn’t start as such. The first episode is, for the lack of a better phrase, very SHAFT, by which I mean very Shinbo. It’s sparkling, protractedly verbose and cut together with just enough self-assured rough edges to be purposeful.
Just try all the keys in the bloody pendant. I don’t care whether it’s a metaphor for sex anymore or who out of the numerous girls you made the promise to when you were a toddler, this kind of tomfoolery has gone on long enough. Based on a lot of anime, Nisekoi (False Love) especially, if I ever have children I will impress upon them the perils of making promises to childhood friends because from the evidence, all it causes is trauma further down the line.
Nisekoi’s initial hook is standard “only in anime” fare: the son of a Yakuza boss, Raku, is forced to pretend he’s romantically involved with the daughter, Chitoge, of another gang boss. The two obviously fight like cats and dogs yet must maintain the facade of a couple in love lest hostilities between the two criminal enterprises escalate into a full on street war. I say “initial” hook because although that’s all covered in the first episode, the storyline the series is more interested in telling is about the promise Raku made with an unknown girl when he was younger, a girl who holds the literal key to his figurative heart / literal pendant.
We’re done with the portmanteaus, no more Bakemono or Nisemono, just Monogatari Second Season. It’s a bit of a misnomer really considering we’re thirty episodes deep already with ONAs scattered about like confetti and a series chronology that’s increasingly difficult to cohere into a straightforward story. Straightforwardness is not what you get with the Monogatari franchise though, which is both in its favour and to its detriment; however more than any of the previous series - the watershed Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari then Nekomonogatari - this is what everything has been building up to.
this isn’t just fan-service, this is Shinbo x SHAFT fanservice
Not in terms of story mind you, it’s still the dialogue-heavy, supernatural-affliction scaffolding that has driven the plot from the outset. Certainly not in terms of characters either with the return of just about every female lead barring Suruga and barely a handful of new additions, some of which are difficult to tell apart from already established cast members. No, the build up has been there to tear down and put back together, to lay bare the characters and tropes that, to a certain extent, the franchise has built around itself.